Permit Expirations

Stylized picture of Philadelphia's skyline above a written guide to Philly permit expirations

We’ve heard a lot from our clients about permit expirations recently: Contractors, property owners, and even homeowners working on small renovation projects have found their construction and zoning permits out of date: marked “expired” and closed in the City of Philadelphia’s online portal. Everyone wants to know why their permits are expiring, and how to keep them alive.

Under this hail of cancellations, it might be surprising to learn that Philly’s permit expiration rules aren’t new: the City didn’t pass a new law, and Licenses and Inspections didn’t create a new regulation. What’s new is enforcement: L&I is tracking expiration dates closely, and actually closing overdue permits. In recent years, they were far more lenient because of the pandemic; and before that, they simply didn’t police expirations strictly: a permit could hang out in the system for years past its expiration date before anyone thought about closing the permit record.

That has all changed within the last year: Licenses and Inspections will close out expired permits almost immediately, which has introduced Philadelphia developers, contractors, and property owners to the rules that were technically always there, printed at the bottom of every issued permit.

You have questions about Philly permit expirations (I assume – you’re reading this, right?). We have the answers! Let’s dive in:

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Update on Philly Airbnb rules

Image of Philadelphia buildings at the top of an article about the Philly Airbnb rules in 2023

It’s been two years since Philly decided to create a license for Airbnb rentals, over a year since we first looked at Philly’s Airbnb rules in this space. The regulations for the Airbnb license are tricky, but with determination and focus we worked them out, then shared our findings with you in an easy-to-use guide – problem solved! Let’s look at the result of our work… Oh. Oh no.

Image of stormtroopers from Star Wars in formation used as a joke to represent Airbnb's enforcement of the City of Philadelphia's licensing rules

Live look at Airbnb’s enforcement action in Philadelphia

Okay, in the last month the City of Philadelphia has directed Airbnb and Vrbo to stop listing any stays (called short-term rentals) without a Philadelphia license. This is a problem, because in the last two years, I guess only 10-15% of Airbnb/Vrbo operators got a license? People! Come on! 

Alright, alright: I understand it’s not that easy to get a short-term rental license in Philly. I also understand that not every property is zoned for short-term rental under City laws. So here’s a quick reminder of the steps to a Philadelphia Airbnb license: 

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Philadelphia Outdoor Dining Rules

A picture of streeteries in Philadelphia on 2nd Street, as part of this article on new Philly outdoor dining rules in 2023

If you operate a restaurant in Philadelphia, you probably know what today is: Streetery Judgment Day in Philly. Starting January 9th, 2023, all the outdoor dining patios, tents, huts, and yurts that flowered in the pandemic must be licensed or weeded from the fabled streets of Philadelphia. While Licenses and Inspections had given restaurants a pretty long leash starting in 2020, they’ve teamed with the Streets Department to yank that chain tight, ruling certain zones illegal for street dining and instituting a fee and permit structure for continued outdoor restaurant extensions. Naturally, restaurateurs (and diners!) are confused about the new Philadelphia outdoor dining rules. But never fear! Permit Philly is here to break down these new curbside seating regulations.

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Coronavirus and Philadelphia Permits (Update)

Coronavirus in Philadelphia (Update)

Greetings from Permit Philly’s top secret quarantine lair! We are furiously washing our hands and really getting deep into Netflix’s recommended list of Intense Movies Featuring a Strong Female Lead. (It’s mostly Salt. Don’t judge.) We hope you and yours are safe, but also hope we can use some of this newly free time to let you know what’s happening to Philadelphia permits during the COVID-19 shutdown. [UPDATE: Construction is legal again as of May 1st; however, there are a lot of limitations on the sort of construction that can continue. Notably, only permits issued on or before March 20 allow construction for now. Review Philadelphia’s guide to restarting construction right here. You can also read the Governor’s order for reopening construction sites. Philly city offices are still closed, so read on for an explanation of how permits are being processed during the closure.]

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Philadelphia Permits Go Online!

Philadelphia Permits Go Online!

This was written shortly before L&I closed its permit center and review boards on March 16th, 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. For an update on this situation and other permit regulations, please see our blog here.

If you’ve read this blog, you might have marveled at the complexity of Philadelphia permits. Maybe not the way that you might marvel at a sunrise, but definitely the way you gawk at a the 76 interchange with the Vine Street Expressway at rush hour: there’s a lot happening, very slowly, in a creaky system designed decades ago, and everyone involved is a little testy. And even though there’s always renovation, big problems in the system are never solved. In the Philly permit system, one of the glaring problems is that you can’t submit applications online. But that’s changing: finally, after literal years of delay and false starts (this really is like highway construction, now that I think about it), Philadelphia permits are going online.

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Permit Philly is on the Radio! (Or a Podcast. Whatever.)

Philadelphia Permitting on the Radio

Last month, Eleena de Lisser invited me (Brett) on her show – the Jumpstart Philly Real Estate Radio Show – to talk permits! Permit heads and paperwork junkies, I see you: this is everything you ever wanted to know about Philadelphia permitting, Licenses and Inspections, permit violations, and the exact turning radius allowed for a vehicle crossing a curb cut in a residential lot!

(It didn’t get that technical.)

Eleena asked me about Permit Philly – how it started, how I started working in permits despite a background in music, and what services Permit Philly provides to those sailing the dark, repetitive waters of Philadelphia permitting. We talked a little about the permitting process, and touched on building permits, changes to Philadelphia’s building codes earlier this year, zoning permits, and variances.

Eleena is a great host, and you should check out her show! Don’t worry: it comes in the form of a podcast. She has a million interesting guests, and also me! Give the episode a listen, then read more about Philadelphia permitting in the Permit Philly blog – and when you’re sick of that, listen to some more of the Jumpstart Philly Real Estate Radio Show, or just check out Jumpstart Germantown itself!

Find our episode right here, or on Apple Podcasts or Google Music.

Four Things to Know About the Building Code Changes in Philly

If you hang out with developers and architects in Philly, you’ll probably pick up their vibe these days: severe stress.  Why?  Because on April 1st, we get a slew of official changes to the Philadelphia building codes.  Yep, the city of Philadelphia will switch over to the 2018 International Building Code for non-residential construction, and the 2015 International Residential Code for residential construction.  All new zoning permit and building permit applications will be reviewed under the standards of the 2018 IBC and 2015 IRC.  This is probably going to be a mess: plans drawn up under the previous code regime are still under review, and architects and developers may have drafted plans for work under the old codes – only to find that, as of April 1, those plans aren’t up to date.

But it doesn’t have to be a catastrophe!  Prepare now for the changes to the Philadelphia building codes, and it’ll go off without a hitch.  These are the four things you need to know about the upcoming changes to the building code.  (Exclamation points for appropriate dramatic effect.)

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Top Five Things to Know About Philly Permits in 2019

Top Five Things to Know About Philly Permits in 2019

Happy New Year!  Permit Philly hopes everyone has recovered from the Mummer apocalypse and a month of eggnog.  Since we have a brand-new year on our hands, I thought it would be a good idea to review what’s changed in Philadelphia permits over the last year, and explain how the changes affect you.  So here are the top five things to know about Philly permits in 2019.

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EZ Sign Permit

The Reach Lofts sign in Fishtown — an example of a sign that could be permitted by an EZ Sign Permit.

The City of Philadelphia can be a cruel mistress.  When filing permits, it’s common to be told that the thing you’ve done 176 times needs to be laid out a different way the 177th time – but then, on the 178th time, to go back to the regular way.  Sometimes, the way the application process works depends on which staffer is on lunch.  This is life on the mean streets of 1401 JFK Boulevard.

But every now and again, the City smiles upon us all, and cuts away some of its own red tape.  It has recently cut some tape around its troubled sign permits by creating what we in the permit game have previously only dreamt of: EZ sign permits.

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